You’ve made it through your first semester of optometry school. Or maybe your third, or even fifth. Maybe you’re a junior or senior still pursuing your undergraduate degree, thinking about a future career in optometry. No matter what your year in school, it is never too early or too late to start thinking about getting involved.
The first few weeks of optometry school are hectic: getting a handle on the workload, meeting new people, learning the ins-and-outs of your college, and of course, deciding which organizations to join. You’re bombarded with speeches and applications and dues for every optometry-related association under the sun. NOSA. AOSA. SVOSH. AAO. Even some upperclassmen still admit they can’t keep the alphabet soup straight. In the next few months, each of these clubs will begin electing leadership positions for the next year. Now is the perfect time to really learn what each of these clubs or optometric organizations has to offer and which type of leadership position may be the best fit (or fits!) for you. This series of articles will give an insider’s look to what stepping up in each of these organizations is all about.
The American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) is the biggest of the student organizations with over 6,200 student members spanning 23 schools of optometry in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Membership automatically grants you membership into the American Optometric Association (AOA), the AOSA’s parent organization. Each school has an individual branch of the AOSA, run in slightly unique ways based on the program’s personal needs. Each school’s branch of the AOSA has one Trustee and one Trustee-elect, who among countless other duties, organize membership and dues, act as a mouthpiece for national optometric issues, and help organize and promote Optometry’s Meeting. The Board of Trustees represent their respective program’s best interests at a board meeting at Optometry’s Meeting each June and a planning meeting each January. If current events in optometry, organizing and planning events and fundraisers, and representing your individual school on a national scale is something you are passionate about, the AOSA Board of Trustees may be the place for you.
The AOSA is affiliated with 15 different branches of organized optometry, including AOA-PAC (Political Advocacy Committee), CLCS (Contact Lens and Cornea Section), and Sports Vision Section, among others. Each school elects a local liaison for 12 of these branches in order to maintain contact with national liaisons and AOA representatives for each of these sections. Local liaisons then relay information to the students of their school about current issues, changes, and scholarship and employment opportunities that may be offered by any particular section. National liaisons, appointed by the AOSA President, become masters of their craft by total immersion into the section they are passionate about. They create goals for their section to relay to the AOSA President and other liaisons. A liaison position is great for any student who has found a niche of the profession that interests them and would like to go a step farther in pursuing that interest.
Each school has its own individual ways to divide leadership within their own AOSA chapter. Whether it be Trustee-elect, local President, Treasurer, State Optometric Association President, liaison, or other position, there is a way you can make a difference in this organization. I can speak from personal experience when I say becoming a part of my school’s chapter of the AOSA has been one of the most enlightening and rewarding experiences of my optometric student career.
So what makes the AOSA different from the other organizations on campus? To put simply, pushing for organized optometry. Leadership in the AOSA is for those who want to advance organized optometry on a national scale, to connect with optometrists who share similar interests and goals for the profession, and to enhance our scope of practice and perceptions within the general public.
Want to get involved? Contact your school’s local AOSA Trustee and learn how!